Few of us feel love for our bellies. We squeeze them into Spanx pants or belt them up Clarkson-style; our bellies are viewed as wayward creatures that will embarrass us given half a chance. As Susie Orbach says in her book Bodies: “Bodies are becoming our personal mission to tame, extend and perfect.”
The reality of our soft, fallible selves is regarded as out of control and unacceptable.
However, tension in the belly is translated into tight tissues, which can inhibit the function of our digestion, our backs and our hormonal flow. Ninety percent of serotonin is produced in the colon, so having a healthy digestion will greatly affect your emotional health too.
Recent discoveries about the entropic nervous system have lead to suggestions that the stomach is akin to a second brain and it’s no wonder our stress and discomfort gets translated into bloating and hormonal madness. Biodynamic and abdominal massages both unwind the emotional holding in the belly, but we can also try being kind and give loving attention instead.
Your Mum was right: tucking your shirt in makes a difference. Keeping your mid-section warm improves circulation, which in turn helps your digestion and abdominal organs perform. Japanese Haramaki (belly warmers) are now doing good service to muffin tops in the west.
Our digestion does an amazing job of nourishing us; usually we only come to notice it when things go wrong. Remembering that this complex process is operating for us all the time, and feeling gratitude for it, will go a long way towards helping us treat our bellies better.
Give your belly some love
Connecting and spending quality time with your belly is a great way to nourish that sense of gratitude. Simple massages, gently done in a clockwise direction every day has amazing results. Just lying on your back with a pillow under your knees and placing your hands on your belly is a great place to start.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing is great for creating a core strength that is also soft, it will also help you to de-stress and connect with your feelings. Lying comfortably on your back with your knees supported, place your hands on your lower belly. Let your belly expand as you breath in and drop softly back as you breathe out.
Core strength does not mean ripped abs; it is a combined effort from your pelvic floor, the little muscles that support your spine, the tummy muscles and the diaphragm. Give up crunches and instead develop an awareness of your core during day-to-day activities. Zipping up your belly and pulling your navel towards your spine as you get up from a chair or open a bottle of wine is the way forward.
Give up the self-disgust, it’s time to show your belly some love!